Sarah Laskow

Sarah Laskow is a reporter based in New York City who covers environment, energy, and sustainability issues, among other things.

Animals

North Carolina elephant might be getting contact lenses

C’sar, a 38-year-old bull elephant living in North Carolina, could become the first pachyderm to wear contact lenses. Because nothing looks nerdier than an elephant in glasses. “An elephant has never been fitted with corrective lenses,” the Associated Press reports. (One elephant once had a contact put in his eye, but it was just to keep some gunk in, not to help his vision.) To give you a sense of the scale here, C’sar weighs 12,000 pounds and has eyes about the same size as a horse’s. His contacts would need to be 1.5 inches in diameter — about three …

Animals

Bears can count

North American black bears have the largest relative brain size of all carnivores, and apparently they are capable of using that brain power to count. Scientists tested three bears on their ability to look at groups of dots and identify whether one group had fewer or more dots than another. (Two bears were looking for “fewer,” and the other was looking for “more.”) Turns out, they could tell the difference, which means they can count, or anyway do some bear-brain counting-like thing. It’s not like they understand what a “five” is, but they know how many of things there are.

Food

Burrito robot problematizes fast food and nutrition, makes you a disgusting burrito

For his thesis project, Marko Manriquez, “a maker, interactive designer and foodie of all things delicious,” has created a robot that prints “a 3D edible extrusion combining a blend of digital fabrication and gastronomy.” That is the least appetizing possible way of saying “it makes a burrito.” Ladies and gents, we present, the Burritob0t: Why a burrito? Well, there’s the practical explanation, according to Manriquez: Burritos are a natural choice because most of their ingredients are easily extrudable. What’s that again? Extrude — to shape (as metal or plastic) by forcing through a die. Remember when you were a kid …

Animals

Help name these weird species

Giving children names is exciting and all, but it is important to consider how they will feel when their name is shouted on the playground. But not so with species! You can name those suckers whatever you want and they will be none the wiser. The Guardian is holding a contest that lets readers indulge in this pleasure by coming up with common names for 10 British species. Past contests have yield such gems as “hotlips” for this labial-looking fungus and “sea piglet shrimp” for this fella. This year the species on hand are mostly brown. The list includes not …

Business & Technology

Smarter than a Smart car: A Smart e-bike

Quick, what’s smarter and cuter and more awesome than a Smart car? We’re going to go with a Smart bike, the tiny car’s even-tinier electric bike sibling. The bike’s won all kinds of design awards, and it’s no surprise. It actually still resembles a bike, instead of a cyborg bike with a tumor-looking motor attached, like some e-bikes we could name. It’s maybe not that fastest e-bike in existence, but we’re betting it will get you up hills. And it doesn’t need to be charged too often.

Business & Technology

Swarms of robots could replace tractors on farms

Most farm machinery right now consists of huge machines. But in the future, farm machinery could be “a swarm of planting, tending, and harvesting robots running game theory and swarm behavior algorithms to help optimize every inch of arable space in a given field,” Popular Science reports. That’s one Iowan’s vision, anyway, and he’s created a prototype of a farmbot. It’s named Prospero.